It has been a while since Syracuse Orange men's basketball fans felt a sense of frustration in its team's play, effort and execution.
If you missed that feeling at all (that's, of course, if you have not been watching Syracuse football for the past months) you got a taste of it Sunday when the Orange struggled to play well in the first half and then battle through the adversity in the second half of a 76-68 victory over the visiting Carleton University Ravens in an exhibition contest at the Carrier Dome.
For those that missed SU's season-opener, here's a taste of what went down:
1) Don't worry, Kaleb Joseph is going to be a fine point guard
The freshman from Cushing Academy stepped into the role of floor general as if he'd been "the guy" for a few years.
Credit the amount of hoops these kids play nowadays before they get to college, credit his basketball skills and knowledge, or credit Jim Boeheim for continuing to find ball-handling studs, but Joseph looked good against a veteran squad that featured a bunch of solid, veteran guards.
The 6-foot-3 guard netted a team-best 19 points, four assists, four rebounds and a steal in his debut, which only featured a small hiccup as he seemed to have rolled his ankle a bit midway through the game. However, the tweak didn't slow him down much. He reentered the game in the latter stages of the second half and helped the Orange grow their lead after tailing by nine points at halftime.
2) Senior year Rakeem Christmas might be a lot of fun
The first half's of Sunday's victory featured the senior doing a lot of what he has been accustomed to during his previous three years--not doing too much.
Then, senior-year Rakeem erupted in the second half with 13 points. The baker's dozen featured Christmas wanting the ball in the low post, a fantastic first step to the basket where he finished with his left and right hand, and monster finishes at the rim.
On defense, Rak did what he does when he's on the floor and attentive--disrupting shots and showing energy.
A solid start to the 2014-15 season for Christmas, who needed to come gates with a bit of fire and he did.
3) "Ronnie Pats" could be the spark SU might be missing
Look, I know his official nickname is "Buss" Patterson, but every time the sophomore guard knocked down a three or made a great defensive play I found myself saying, "Thatta boy Ronnie!" So, feel free to jump on the "Ronnie Pats" bandwagon. Though, I am fine to be the only one on it.
Anyway, what a nice 15-point, five-of-six shooting, show the eighth man off the bench put on. One can argue that without Patterson, Syracuse falls to our Great White North Neighbors.
Syracuse had zero energy on defense and had no one making a shot, but then the "Buss" arrived and nailed the first four 3-pointers he launched, he last cut the Raven's lead to 47-45 with 13:22 remaining in the game. His play helped SU get back into the game and it was vital to peaking the team's energy.
Patterson also played fantastic defense at the top of the 2-3 zone, as he collected a steal and a blocked shot.
If Syracuse is looking for an energy guy off the bench to provide a spark here and there, Patterson might be a solid fit in that role. Of course, don't count on it to always happening.
Boeheim: Ron Patterson makes every shot 2 days out of 7. Today was one of the 2 days.— WAER Sports (@WAERSports) November 2, 2014
4) Chris McCullough's got skills but some growing to do
You look at Syracuse's lone five-star recruit from the Class of 2014 and you gawk at what he could become. Already McCullough can do a lot of things such as handle the ball in the paint, play with some energy on the boards and shoot it, a bit, from deep.
If the Orange were looking at a stop-gap for the loss of C.J. Fair--you know, the guy who always seemed to score in double digits and snag 7-10 rebounds per game--the 6-foot-10 forward should do just fine.
But, let's not jump on the one-and-done bandwagon just yet. Though, if he does erupt this season it won't be the worth thing.
5) We might have an issue with Trevor Cooney, already
Shit. I don't normally rush to conclusions, especially in a exhibition game that DOES NOT COUNT, but Cooney's shot was very flat on Sunday and it lead to a zero-point showing on six shots (0-for-4 from behind the 3-point arc).
Look, I know shooters are streaky and we know he can knock down 3-balls in bunches, but Syracuse will need him to make at least two to three outside shots per game, and zero points form field goals just won't do it. I don't care how great his defense is, Trevor, Jerry or Troy Cooney needs to find the bottom of the net.
Overall, I came away from the preseason outing pretty impressed by SU's young group. Carleton, which is the best college team Canada has to offer--trust me, these guys were pretty good and could compete with a lot of ACC squads--gave the Orange everything they could handle in the first half and SU responded in the second half with a lot of energy.
Let's not forget, a lot of Syracuse's players have only been learning Boeheim's system for a month now and many were playing in a college game for the first time. Meanwhile, the Ravens were a veteran squad that featured three starters on their fifth year of eligibility (Canadian players can play for five years).
Enjoy this fake victory because it was a good one Syracuse fans. Now, enjoy Jim Boeheim in all his glory.